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Organic History Articles

Between December 2018 and April 2022, I wrote 44 articles for my monthly History of Organic Agriculture in America column in Acres U.S.A. magazine. These articles were based on a series of working papers I wrote for my own research purposes. The versions of the articles posted here include the original citations from my working papers and have been updated if I have done additional research on a topic. This page is a work in progress, and I will announce in my blog when I add new articles.

The Indore Method of Composting

The Indore Method of Composting, developed by Sir Albert Howard in the 1920s, was the cornerstone of early organic farming. This article covers the scientific development of the Indore Method, including the influences of F. H. King, Selman A. Waksman, and the Rothamsted Experiment Station.

The Law of Return

Sir Albert Howard's original concept of "humus farming" involved composting all wastes--including human excrements--to create a closed system of nutrient cycling. This article covers the history of Howard's "Law of Return," including the contributions of Justus von Liebig and the growth of the chemical fertilizer industry.

For His People: George Washington Carver and Organic Agriculture

George Washington Carver promoted composting, foraging, and diversified cropping systems to the impoverished Black farmers of Macon County, Alabama in the early twentieth century. This article examines Carver's background, experiment station work, and impact in the broader context of organic farming history.

Feeding the World: Malthusian Ideas in American Agriculture

The idea that it was the United State's responsibility to feed the world originated during and after World War II. This article covers the history of neo-Malthusianism and concerns about population growth in the wartime and postwar US.

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